“Leadership is a choice and you have to intentionally make that choice and take the responsibility of being that leader each and every day.” – Ryan Hawk
As is with most things, we are the sum of our experiences. While the world may contain “natural born leaders,” genes are not the only way to become one. To put it simply, leadership is not one-size-fits-all and there are many ways to go about being an effective leader. It all depends on how you choose to inspire people towards a vision. There’s no exact blueprint or roadmap, but it begins and ends with the choice to better oneself every day. So, how do you do that?
Like any skill, leadership requires practice, determination and intention; it’s something that improves with time and requires every day attention. If you believe that you aren’t a leader, you will never become one, it is your own self belief that is going to help you get going on the fast track to becoming the leader you always hoped to be. To get started, if you want to be more than a manager and more like a leader, it’s essential that you develop your own unique vision. What do you want for your team? “As a leader, my voice is rooted in vulnerability; I like to be really open and share my failures with my people,” said Matt Gonsalves, host of One Question podcast. While this is Matt’s way of getting to know his people and motivate them towards success, you may have a different way of doing so. But, as long as you dig deep, question yourself and look for your better mode of leadership, you’ll be able to identify your unique voice and how you can help your people most effectively.
Another key element to becoming a leader is developing a sense of self-confidence. Overconfidence can instigate your ego, preventing you from being introspective and authentic. You need to look in the mirror first and understand your own values, daily habits and desire to be responsible for leading others.
Knowing yourself well and doing the hard work to be reflective and acting with intention will allow you to discover a confidence in your vision and what you hope to bring to the table.
In addition, this level of emotional intelligence will give you a good sense of how you are going to be perceived by others. If you know yourself, you will know how to take care of yourself and in turn, you will be equipped to take care of others. Have confidence in the fact that you bring a unique value to the world and you are capable of bringing value to other’s lives.
Once you have some confidence and better understand your plan, you will be ready to execute. However, while having a plan is an important piece of the puzzle, it’s not the last one. Having the ability to execute on your visions, goals, plans and ambitions is what makes you unique and what will make you a great leader. “You must have a bias for action. What’s something you can do today that helps someone else and makes an impact on their life?” said Ryan Hawk, host of The Learning Leader podcast. A bias for action is the intuition and the charge for always executing on your plans – it’s vital to building the momentum to be a great leader and a bias for action is the choice you have to make every day.
Lastly, be keenly aware of yourself in situations where you’re balancing between being a manager and being a leader. Being a leader is a different ballgame than being a manager. In order to arrive at that level of leadership, you must look for opportunities to be a leader every day. You must look for opportunities to be proactive, to be one step ahead and you must not find yourself waiting for people to direct you or tell you what to do. Going from “manager” to “leader” requires a shift in mindset; you don’t need permission and you don’t need direction. If you learn to step up and own your own development with intention, you will set the bar for those around you. “Compliance can be commanded, commitment cannot,” said Ryan. In other words, being told what to do and following a set of rules and demands is easy; commitment to bettering yourself and developing those around you with inspiration and conviction cannot be directed. So, follow the yellow brick road and go off the beaten path – stay committed to executing on your visions and don’t just take direction, ignite your ambitions.
Each person that you lead is going to require unique attention and inspiration, which makes leadership a tough skill to perfect. Know that you’re never going to be perfect and sometimes you may slip into old, managerial ways. But, if you keep getting up off the mat and staying in-tune with yourself enough to feel passion towards your vision, you will keep it alive. And, most importantly, your passion will set a fire in those around you to pursue your same, shared vision and that is when you will know you have learned the tremendous skill of leadership.